Prisons are Incubators for Racism
March 20, 2015
This paper is about radicalization, racialization and incubation of racism inside prisons. We already know that there are specific elements that are interrelated to create a system for racism and other cultural issues. Radicalization serves as a force that distorts all parts of the criminal justice system including the arrest, detention, conviction and incarceration aspects of the various elements at work to shape a prisoner’s outlook of his or her life before and after incarceration.
This twisted grid of imperfect systems spurns legitimate challenges and incubates distorted emotions and approaches that fuel the radicalization of racism, causing more destruction than anyone can ever imagine. In order to set the tone and temper for this paper, we need to admit there are competing and conflicting forces at work today in our society and inside our prisons.
The politicians today have bragged we are living in a post-racial society today when in fact the opposite is factual than ever before. According to Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. own words, “racism still occupies the throne of our nation” and this is what set the reality in people’s lives and thinking. It also drives the character and ideology of those who see racism as a means to get whatever it is they need out of life regardless how it impacts other people.
We need to explore how racism plays a part of the role race plays in our prisons today. We need to identify the role of race and how it shapes our social and cultural institutions throughout the prison systems and note if these cumulative factors, mixed with radicalization and racialization, brings inequities, disparities and other oppressive methods in this constant struggle for economic and social justice equality.
Unless we identify these radicalization factors in our prisons, there will be too much of an oppositional force, to change and will never bring racial justice to this special isolated population away from our free world society and at the same time, as an interim housing assignment before they are returned back to the communities they came from, after serving their time.
Unless we change the way we manage our prisons, we won’t achieve any further growth in the fundamental systemic levels of change in our societies and achieve a better quality of life for all those persons incarcerated and judged on their color of their skin, race, nationality or ethnicity.
Fundamentally speaking, the key points emphasized are:
1. Racism is dynamic and ever-changing in shape and ideology if opportunities are presented for positive changes.
2. Structural racialization is a system of social structures that produces and reproduces negative practices inside our prison structures.
3. Eliminate the act or process of imbuing a person with a consciousness of race distinctions or of giving a racial character to something or making it serve racist ends.
4. Identify structural radicalization and measure how it destroys systems based on absences of trust, misunderstandings and communication.
5. Realize that racialized outcomes do not require racist actors.
6. Avoid focusing on individual instances of racism as it can have the effect of diverting our attention from the structural changes required to be made.
7. Provide a resource to directors need to explicitly and implicitly challenge all manifestations of racism and racialization in our work and in organizations.
Fundamentally, the word “racism” is commonly understood to refer to instances in which one [or a group] individual intentionally or unintentionally targets others for negative treatment because of their skin color or other group-based physical characteristics. This kind of ideology must be reversed to mean racial equity can persist without racist intent. There is no doubt this kind of individual-centered view of racism is too limited.
If we look at our prisons today as a complex system of organizations, individuals, processes and policies we can see how many factors interact with the need to create and perpetuate a legitimate social political arrangement which is less harmful to people of color and to our incarcerated populations regarding housing, education, healthcare, employment and social justice.
These are essential elements of a sound social justice system unaffected by radicalization or racialization but rather based on individual needs identified through sound processes found to be productive and fair in practice. Such changes in these processes can and will improve material, emotional and symbolic advantages as equality is distributed without going along racial lines.
For example, racial quotas on housing, jobs, healthcare and other opportunities are driven by radicalization and racialization methods or ideologies. Unfortunately, these are all adverse influences that create the very substance of racism inside prisons. Blaming culture as a reason for this type of discrimination is flawed and unreasonable. Cultures are created but can be changed as well.
If decisions are made without these negative influences, there would be more equality in the environment fostering positive growth of trust, misunderstandings and communications. Assignments based on opportunities will improve the entire setting and allow less tension to be created as policies written are free and void of discriminatory practices or preferential treatment approaches or directives.
Laying out these structural of opportunity allows us to see the connections and results of independent progress and stability for personal and equal advancements in those areas that link the social structures together as one system dependent on fair and equitable processes.
Opportunities result in better participation and sustainable successes in education, housing, safety practices, crime and environmentally better in health or wellness. Creating a “web” of opportunities improves health and wealth as jobs become available and less stress in the environment causes better quality of life and sanitation levels.
Some say this is a simple example of cause and effect. However, it is deeper than that. It is a deterrent to breeding or incubating racism and giving all an equal access to affordable and reasonable health care, education, employment and other things that improves the individual’s opportunity significantly to be happier and more successful in his or her life.
Giving this chance, they are now better positioned to work and focus on their needs to improve their own success in life for pre-release purposes and preparation to re-enter the community as a free person still on parole or supervision but nevertheless, a better outlook of life with the right preparation for success.
Radicalization of racism only puts up barriers to success. It stifles opportunities and impedes morale and hope. These persons who feel oppressed are likely to have bad attitudes and show negative behaviors that warrants disciplinary rather than praise or rewards with incentives offered to all per policy, but denied through racialization and radicalization progressions imposed by those individuals who forced their will on these structures without just cause or reason.
Hence this relationship between cause and effect can cause a positive or negative cumulative causation that serves either as an advantage or disadvantage for the prisoner. Radicalization and racialization impacts whether they are poor performers or high performers. It isn’t enough to have these structures in place if they are not available and accessible to all who need these social improvements to be successful in giving their lives a second chance to stay out of prison.
Radicals and racists should flip the picture and see how it would impact them if these barriers to sound and practical structures were to be used on them in the manner applied through this twisted process. Hence message here is to eliminate radical and racial barriers to opportunities and allow the systems access to all who approach or apply for such opportunities.
Without the political pandering and deliberate meddling, the structures would in fact produce a better environment and improve many dynamics within the prison setting. It would create an overall better climate that is conducive to better health, less disparities and fewer problematic perspectives for success.
Everything is connected. Everything is linked to the social structures put in place to manage people and their behaviors, needs and economic and educational attainments. These factors, if maintained without radicalization and racialization, could in fact eliminate much of the racial disparities in the wellness of state of mind as well as eliminating disparities in education, housing or employment.